It was a different Anteater team at the Bren Events Center last Saturday.
This wasn’t the squad that blew a 10-point halftime lead to UC Riverside only two nights earlier before barely squeezing out a win.
Instead, in a game that tipped off six hours earlier than the Anteaters are accustomed to, their halftime lead would never vanquish and their defense never found an opportunity it couldn’t relish.
So the UC Irvine Men’s Basketball team put together one of its best showings of the season, coming out 74-67 winners over backyard neighbor Cal State Fullerton in Big West Conference action on Jan. 17.
UCI treated the 2,219 in attendance to its 41st win in the team’s last 48 home games, the Anteaters improving to 9-6 overall, 4-2 in conference play.
‘This is by far, for both ends of the court, one of our better games,’ said Head Coach Pat Douglass. ‘We sustained, by and large, our intensity defensively. We battled and we ran the offense.’
After sophomore guard Mike Efevberha’s jumper with 8:51 left in the first half broke an 18-18 knot, the Anteaters would never lose the lead. The Titans (5-9, 1-4 Big West) would come no closer than five points for the rest of the game.
‘We just wanted to come out today and put together a whole 40 minutes because over the last couple of weeks, we haven’t done that,’ said sophomore guard Ross Schraeder. ‘I think we did that today. Everybody stayed intense for 40 minutes and played good defense and got some rebounds and we knocked our shots down.’
Senior center Adam Parada and senior forward Stanislav Zuzak scored 18 points apiece to lead UCI. Zuzak pulled down a team-high eight rebounds, while Parada was burdened with guarding Titan standout Pape Sow.
With Parada shadowing Sow, the senior center from Dakar, Senegal shot under 50 percent for only the fourth time this season. Sow recorded 19 points and 15 rebounds for a double-double.
Efevberha finished wtih 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting for UCI. Sophomore guard Jeff Gloger tallied seven points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Schraeder came off the bench and added nine points in the win.
‘Two people who have really contributed but it hasn’t shown in the stat sheet are Ross Schraeder and Nic Campbell. They came in and buried some three’s against their zone,’ Douglass said. ‘They gave us a little offense off the bench that we haven’t had.’
Douglass wasn’t the only one who noticed the contributions of the Anteaters’ bench players.
‘We made it a point to congratulate every person who came off the bench no matter if they committed their fifth foul or committed their 10th turnover or scored 20 points,’ Parada said. ‘It’s a psychological thing when you come off the bench and you have your teammates there who have your back. That’s huge.’
Before tip-off, Douglass replaced freshman forward Mark Hill in the starting lineup and inserted senior forward Matt Okoro to add strength and size to the frontcourt.
It turns out Okoro would be the benefactor of a highlight reel play in the first half, when Campbell lofted a pass to the back-cutting Okoro for a double-pump alley-oop dunk at the 1:45 mark to give the Anteaters a 37-28 lead.
UCI shot 53 percent in the game. CSUF was held to 40 percent shooting. The Anteaters converted 10-of-20 from three-point territory, of which 3-of-6 was accounted for by Schraeder.
Filed Under: Sports